This is the final of three entries for The Straight Ally. Refer back to parts 1 and 2 for the full story; The Origins of Misunderstanding and Transitioning and Transforming . This is my official story on coming out as a Straight Ally.
I welcomed this new year with open arms. 2013 promises great things for my life and my family, one of them being that I am finally living a life with clarity, understanding, and true compassion. I experienced first hand the fact the inquiry invites advocacy and that knowledge is power. As I had grown and progressed in my journey though there had been one huge gaping chasm that I had been ignoring; my mother. Along with a host of other topics this was certainly one that I knew without a shadow of a doubt she and I would not see eye to eye on. I have mentioned in previous posts and am currently working on an upcoming post that addresses my relationship to my mother at greater length so for brevities sake I will focus solely on our inevitable clash over my LGBT advocacy.
Aside from remarks here and there over the last several years I had never directly taken up this issue with my mother. I had never had the provocation to do so until just last month when a gay relative contacted my sibling to share that my mother had written him with a heavy handed dose of spiritual advice. This created a festering wound amongst my siblings and me as we mulled over it and discussed in horror that our mother would do such a thing. Until this point she had never been so direct and outspoken on this issue. She handled controversial and uncomfortable discussions relating to “sins of a sexual nature” not by direct conversation, but rather with gradual influence of attitude and tone showing her obvious disapproval. I remember riding in the car with my family during their visit to California in 2009. We yielded for a lesbian couple who crossed the street arm-in-arm as my mother clutched her Bible and muttered verses like incantations that would protect us from the evil influence displayed so unapologetically.
After weeks of agonizing over how to respond to my mother– sometimes questioning if I even should– I decided that I would write her a letter. This would be my official coming out as a Straight Ally. I sat down and watched For The Bible Tells Me So once again before I started writing. This time I tried to watch it with her perspective in mind. I tried to empathize with her view and make some sense of her belief. One would think it would not be such a challenge to understand where she is coming from since this is where I spent nearly 30 years of my life as well, but I wanted to be sure I was sitting down to write her with an attitude of compassion and a desire to open up productive dialog. I did not want to shut her down within the first paragraph. So I wrote and I rewrote. I proof read. And finally I was prepared to send it. I ordered a copy of the film, doubting that she would be willing to watch it but hoping there would be some small chance she would let down her guard long enough to hear me out. Besides, if I didn’t give her a chance then I could very well be underestimating and limiting her propensity for change.
From what I am told she received her letter just a few short days later. She refused to read it. Instead she burned it– an outward expression of her hostility and anger at the thought of even considering another’s view. We have not had one conversation since that day. She left me a very forced, formal voice mail barely even acknowledging that I had written. She has declined to return any of my calls since. I am experiencing utter disappointment mixed with hurt laden with disgust that after a decade of sending me hand written letters of condemnation and chastisement she would not even give me the courtesy of entertaining my carefully prepared letter to her.
This has not been an easy time for her as she has had to deal not only with my attempt to reason with her, but also heavy hearted conversations from my siblings as well. I know that she is reeling, most likely feeling like she has failed as a parent. She is being faced right now with the outward expressions from her children that contradict every effort she made to train us up in the likeness of God. I am not angry at her. I do feel sorry for her, but the act of burning my letter pains me and makes me wonder if there will ever be an honest, productive dialog between us.
Over the past weeks I have been feeling such emotion over this strain in our family. I know how many times it has been helpful to me to read other peoples letters to their parents coming out as gay or blog postings as a Straight Ally, so I have decided that if my mother refuses to engage in a respectful discussion, if she is chooses not to hear the pleadings of her children, perhaps someone else’s mother will. Maybe there will be solace in sharing with others who are embarking on similar journeys. So without further ado I will share with you my greatest stand as a Straight Ally.
To my beloved mother, January 23, 2013
I have spent the last two weeks with knots in my stomach, trying to decide how to communicate my heartache and upset with you. Without beating around the bush, I keep in contact with (our cousins) and we have been in communication about the letter you sent them over the holidays. When I first read the words on my screen I felt a deep shock of pain shoot through me. I had to sit and read and reread the words that were written by you. I felt angry, shocked, and disappointed. “God does not let those who turn against the way he created them into the kingdom of heaven…”
I have spent the last several weeks really considering my reaction to this and trying to decide what course of action I would take. I haven’t called or been in communication, as I have really not known what I wanted to say. So after much thought and unrest I decided that I should write this letter.
Your words were deeply, deeply hurtful. Not just to (our cousins) but also to the family that supports them and even the extended family that shares a similar experience and like-mindedness. I have spent the last several years putting an incredible amount of time and research into this subject and I cannot stand by silently when I see someone being persecuted for who they are, who they were born to be, or even dare I say, who they were created to be. I understand every argument you may pose on this topic. I know them well you see, because I am my mother’s daughter. I was raised under very diligent instruction. So when this topic of homosexuality became personal to me, close and within my inner circle, I had to take a step back and look at it from a neutral perspective. I knew the arguments of the fundamentalist and evangelic church, what I didn’t know was the other side. I was very familiar with Leviticus 20:13, Leviticus 18:22, the passages in Genesis 18 and 19 about Sodom and Gomorrah, and even Romans 1:26. What I did not know was what explanation the rest of the population had on this subject.
So I set out to find answers. Are we born straight or gay? Is it a choice? Are homosexuals’ perverted sexual deviants? Does reparative therapy have any grounds? Can a gay be a Christian? Please understand my intention with this letter is not to sway your views, not to argue my perspective, not even to change your belief. Such a motive would be a waste of both of our time. Instead I am writing to tell you how I feel. I am writing to open up lines of communication in hopes for better understanding of one another and in turn, a deeper relationship that is based on honesty and fostered in love.
This past September you and I had what I feel was the most honest discussion we have ever had in my life. I was able to articulate to you my feelings and perspectives with a boldness I have never expressed before. Did it hurt to hear it and hurt to have to say it? Sure, but I had come to an impasse. I could either chose to except a surface level, formal relationship or I could speak up in hopes of propelling our relationship forward onto an even playing field where we can strive towards a mutual respect of one another’s differences and just love one another. Because, as I said then, isn’t the fact that we love each other enough to sustain a relationship? Even if we cant agree on politics, religion, or even some parenting strategies, you are my mother and that is reason enough for me to invest myself into having a good relationship that is built on love.
I have come to a 180 degree change on my views and opinion of homosexuality. I joined (my local) PFLAG chapter (Parents & Families of Lesbians and Gays) seeking support and wanting to gain more understanding. I have felt such heart ache knowing how many, many gay people are mistreated, even persecuted for simply being who they are. It literally makes me ill to see precious, wonderful people being singled out and treated with such contempt. I have asked myself time and time again, “Can’t people see the damage and pain they are causing with their words? Don’t they see the long lasting & far reaching effects their intolerance is causing in the lives of others?” I have found myself at times feeling angry and even feeling a strong disdain for conservatives who oppose my supportive view of people who are gay. Until one day someone pointed out to me that my desire for tolerance had allowed me to become intolerant of anyone who held a different view than I did.
That was hard to digest. Its something I am still processing and striving to balance. I proudly consider myself an activist; I am a Straight Ally for the gay movement and I am very focused on equality. The gay movement is indeed the civil rights movement of our era… but still- I would be hypocritical in wearing my “NO HATE” t-shirt if I am harboring contempt against those who are not supportive of the cause. This is still a growing process for me as words of intolerance and hatred, or even the well-intended words from my mother evoke a strong reaction from me. I feel protective of those that I love and I feel such deep sympathy for those who suffer under the conditional love and dogmatism of those around them.
But yet, at the same time I am learning to feel empathy towards those who are unapologetic of projecting their views onto others, insisting that they have a god given right to dispense unsolicited advice at the expense of another’s happiness. Someplace behind my anger and defensiveness I can see a glimpse of myself, a glimpse of the person that I used to be, and my heart softens a bit. I can look on with a measure of compassion for others who so flippantly pass judgment and advice because I have stood in their shoes. This journey to understanding or even acceptance of something that is so foreign to the heterosexual fundamentalist mindset is deeply personal and completely individual. I had to come to terms with this in my own time, in my own way, so I must respect the journeys of others. You will not agree with anything I have said here, I know that is an absolute. My intention is not to argue my views; I simply need to tell you how I feel. I am my mother’s daughter and I too need to speak about what burdens my heart, not with the intention of causing pain but because I believe in this idealistic relationship between us where love is the foundation.
It seems awkward to communicate so openly with you. There is something engrained in me that says its unnatural to speak against ones own mother. But just as I said in September and I am saying again today, I would rather have a shot at a relationship that is genuine than suffer silently in a relationship that has no real sincerity or substance. I can’t go forward harboring hurts or being afraid to simply be myself or be allowed to live my life freely with my own views and goals. I don’t want to be in a relationship that is conditional, where affection and love can be removed for the crime of individual thinking and free thought. In the same regards, I would never ask for something that I couldn’t give in return. We should be mutually free to peruse our interests and live by our convictions without it diminishing the bond we share as mother and daughter.
So the intent of this letter is to simply express my perspective and attempt to call to your attention the hurt that has been inflicted by your letter. I know in my heart that you truly, truly intended only good with your penned words, but they have had the opposite effect of driving a wedge between that branch of our extended family and our portion of family members who will unknowingly wonder why (they) no longer feel comfortable returning. I am not sure what kind of restitution could be done with them, but I have offered my sincere apologies for the injury that has been caused.
The only thing that I ask of you is that you would be willing to spend 196 minutes of your time to watch the enclosed film, For The Bible Tells Me So. I say 196 minutes because I am asking you to view it twice; once to feel your own emotions; feelings of disagreement or even repulsion, and the second time to really listen to the stories of the families, and hear the voices of those who are going through their own personal journeys. That is all I ask; just watch the film. You don’t have to change your mind, you don’t have to explain or defend your views to me, just be willing to hear the voices of others.
I love you so very much and all I want in my future is to have a strong, happy and honest relationship with those that mean the most in my life. I read this quote just today:
“It takes great courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
~ e.e. Cummings
This quote is true to me. Standing up, speaking out, striving for authentic relationships, being myself & loving who I am. These are my goals in life. Thank you for receiving my words, for giving my perspective consideration and for building an open and loving relationship with me.
I love you more than I can express.
I don’t know what the future holds for my relationship with my mother or even my extended family. I am aware that at this time more of my family wishes I would just stay silent then there are family members who understand my activism and my desire to advocate for change and equality. As this subject has grown deeply personal to my family it has become something that is testing the bounds of relationships, challenging the ideas of unconditional love and in some cases, shining a true light on people’s unwillingness and inabilities to consider other ideas and be open to change. I can say though that in spite of the pressure to conform, and in the the face of isolation I have reached a point in my life where I am standing confidently on my own feet, unapologetically and tirelessly ready to be a voice for reason and change. It has been a long and personal journey but I have a peace and a purpose now that I have never known before and I am proud to be a Straight Ally.
When I was at church they taught me something else
If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t anointed
That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned
When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same, but that’s not important
No freedom till we’re equal, damn right I support it
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
We press play, don’t press pause
Progress, march on
With the veil over our eyes
We turn our back on the cause
Till the day that my uncles can be united by law
When kids are walking ‘round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are
And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
No law is gonna change us
We have to change us
Whatever god you believe in
We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time that we raised up
When my sister showed this song to my siblings and myself we listened to it on repeat for days. I remember my brother saying that he wishes there were more songs like this. I agree. In the same token, I wish there were more blogs like this.
No Freedom Till We’re Equal… Damn Right I Support It.
This blog was retitled and published by Huffington Post in March 2013. The responses were overwhelmingly supportive and there were hundreds of positive comments written. To view the Huffington Post article click here.